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For those committed to applying to PA school or for those still considering other healthcare routes, shadowing healthcare professionals is an amazing opportunity.

Why do schools care about shadowing hours? Shadowing PAs and other healthcare professionals is a valuable way to gain insight into the day-to-day responsibilities of a PA and understand their role in a healthcare team. Seeing a PA at work can show you a lot about the level of knowledge, technical skill, and communication involved in being a healthcare provider. These experiences are not only valuable for your own reflection, but also when writing application essays/personal statements and answering interview questions!

Should I shadow PAs only or should I shadow other healthcare providers? Any shadowing experience is valuable experience! Shadowing doctors, nurses, physical therapists, NPs, etc. can help you understand the various healthcare roles and why they may or may not be of interest to you. It can also help you gain more contacts in the healthcare field and potentially help you find a PA to shadow!

How do I find someone to shadow? There are lots of routes to try when finding someone to shadow! It is likely that friends, family, friends of friends, or coworkers have a connection to a PA who would be willing to have a student shadow them so don’t be shy about asking the people in your social network. It is also possible to ask your own healthcare providers if you can shadow them or if they have any PAs that work with them! If you are still struggling to find someone to shadow after asking friends, family, coworkers, and your own healthcare providers there are many people who have success by reaching out to local clinics/private practices. You can find clinics with a google search or from social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. Many large hospital systems have policies about shadowing so although it is still worth a shot, you may find more success by reaching out to smaller local clinics/practices. Make sure to introduce yourself, let them know your interest in shadowing, and give them multiple times that you are available.

What do I do once I find someone to shadow? Once someone agrees to have you come shadow be sure to ask about when/where to meet them and what the attire you should wear. Make sure to arrive a bit early and be dressed appropriately! Be engaged and show your interest by asking questions but also be sure to be mindful of the fact that the provider is working and if they seem very overwhelmed/busy it is sometimes more appropriate to be a fly on the wall (just use your best judgment!). During lunch, at the end of the shift, or if there is downtime, it is also a great opportunity to ask general questions about how they feel about the profession, why they chose a certain specialty, and what they like/dislike about their job. Lastly, after you are done shadowing be sure to say thank you and follow up with a thank you card or email to show your gratitude for them taking the time to let you shadow!